The History of Architecture in Central America dates in times -1492 and before, consisting of current locations – Costa Rica, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. The architectural history of this region has a great influence on Spanish and Portuguese styles of architecture and is claimed to have begun rapidly after their presence in this region in 1491 and continues to influence even today.

In the times before 1492, People in America had civilizations with unique architectural traditions indigenous to the American localities but with aging, in time these traditions got intertwined with the European and North American traditions resulting in Latin American culture.

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Culture expressed in Native American art_©

The Buildings dating before the 15th century have almost disappeared due to their construction in impermanent materials but the monuments of around the 16th century can still be seen. The 16th-century buildings consist of monumental architecture and include the cathedrals – built for military purposes which were consequently massive and plain. The 16th century was a transition period of Central America from Spanish Gothic to Spanish Renaissance with a lot of structures reminiscent of the Plateresque Style with extremely contrasting bare walls and ornamental doorways of Escorial. 

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the Colonial cathedral of Mexico City_©

Elaborate and intricate ornamentation was employed towards and after the 16th century. The architecture style became strong yet simple and with solid construction that followed a stereotypical image of the colonial architecture in this region. The cathedral in Santiago Domingo (1512-1541), Dominican Republic portrays it as a fine example. As evolution began more ideas were discovered and an open chapel in monasteries was built with only three walls for construction, architecture to accommodate more people was introduced.

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Cathedral of Santa Maria La Menor, Santo Domigo_©afar

During the 17th and 18th Century the baroque style of architecture held sway and continued to influence the architecture in Central America However, in the 18th century Central America. In addition to their architectural style of large forms and curving lines of the traditional European baroque, Now Spanish buildings were initiated to maintain between their decorated forms and plain surfaces in their earlier period. Later, in the region of Columbia a more conservative trend began churches and public buildings were simple yet severe.

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Cathedral of Santiago de compostela_©

The native artisans combined their skills with baroque features and reached their utmost architectural forms. Now, Often referred to as Ultra-Baroque because of its strong light and shade patterns, rightly carved entablatures and carved columns, and alterations of angles and curves. In the late 18th century most cathedrals went under renovation and restoration and portions of the bottom were made heavier to protect from earthquakes.

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Sanfransico catholic archdiocese _©sfchronicle

To witness classic monumental architecture, one could go to Guatemala, Belize, or Honduras. The masons extremely creatively constructed stone pyramids built to last. Also, these structures witness daily swarms of tourists to these stone pyramids even though the time frame for their existence is endured. The most famous cities are – Tikal, Tazumal, Copan, and Caracol. Fewer colonial buildings survive in this region as they have been destroyed mostly by hurricanes and by ravages of time. Many of the town’s colonial-era churches and buildings have survived several major earthquakes.

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Pyramid of the Sun city_©britannica

Clapboard houses built on Stilts are the most common and typical architectural features along the coast. Buildings often painted in pastel colors are a key aesthetic feature that adds more to the city and can be commonly seen around this region. Outside the coast and cities, more of the region’s architecture is seen as extremely plain. Most residential accommodations are made in simple concrete blocks with zinc roofs.

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clapboard houses along coastal regions in central america_©pinterest

Online sources 

InfoPlease. 2021. Spanish colonial art and architecture: Colonial Architecture in Central America. [online] Available at: 2021. Architecture in Central America | Frommer’s. [online] Available at:


Disha is an architecture graduate from Nagpur University, 2021. Being an avid traveler, she has always tried to connect the city’s art & culture with architecture. She is a keen learner & an extremely creative individual who always seeks opportunities to enhance knowledge & experience in the field of architecture.

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